Every time you ship internationally, you’ll need to take a few additional steps to prepare your shipment for the customs clearance process. Customs, the government service responsible for administering international trade laws, inspects and regulates every shipment to make sure the contents comply with the importing country or territory’s regulations.
Currently, you can send a parcel domestically in the UK and into Europe with no requirement for any customs documentation and you won’t incur any customs charges. However, if you are sending outside the EU to popular destinations such as the USA, China, Australia or India, you will need to complete a customs declaration form and customs duty may apply.
We have collated some customs advice that you should be aware of to help you understand customs charges and what you can do to ensure your package clears customs.
What is Customs?
Customs is an authority who control what is shipped in and out of a country. They ensure no illegal or prohibited goods get through and also ensure the government they represent receive the correct tax and duty owed on goods that are liable for charges.
Each country has a different set of rules regarding customs, so you will need to do your research before you post your parcel overseas.
Tips to Avoid Customs Delays
- Declare the accurate value for your item, even if it’s being provided to the recipient at no charge (i.e., sample or not for resale). The value will be used to assess duties and taxes.
- Keep multiple-piece shipments together, and label each piece of the shipment individually.
- Correctly complete all necessary documents. Keep your answers specific, accurate and free of spelling errors.
- Make sure information is consistent across all required customs documents.
- When filling out customs documents, list each commodity separately, and provide a detailed, accurate description of each one, including what it’s made of and how it will be used.
- Legibly print the commodity’s country of origin/manufacture to indicate where your commodity was manufactured, grown or produced.
- If you’re using your own broker, please include their complete contact information.
- Provide phone number or fax information for both the sender and the consignee.
Customs Clearance Process
Complete Your Documentation
Prepare your customs documents (the Commercial Invoice and any other required forms) and your international shipping label on your own
Print your shipping label and stick it all on your shipment. Then, drop it off at your nearest location or schedule a pickup.
Export & Import Customs
We will take care of your shipment in transit and guide it through both Export Customs Clearance and Import Customs Clearance.
Completing the Shipment
We will retrieve the shipment(s) from Customs and will finish delivering it to the importer/recipient.
Customs brokers stay on top of ever-changing international shipping regulations on the shipper’s and recipient’s behalf, making sure that each shipment complies with the necessary rules and laws. Shipping One includes brokerage with every international shipment, though you can also choose to use your own broker.
Duties & Taxes
Most shipments that cross international borders are subject to duty and tax assessment by the importing country’s government. Learn more about these charges and what to expect so you can avoid surprises and save yourself and the recipient time, money and effort.
Required Customs Documentation
As the exporter, you’re responsible for preparing all the customs documentation needed for your international shipment.
Find more information on which documents you need to fill out, along with guidance on what to include, by using Shipping One International Shipping Assist.
International shipping regulations and requirements can change quickly, but staying on top of them doesn’t have to be difficult. Shipping One issues regulatory alerts and updates for international shipping to help keep you aware of any new developments.
International customs charges
If you are sending a parcel from the UK to a country outside the EU, customs charges will apply and you will need to complete a customs declaration form, detailing the item you’re sending and its value.
All packages sent with Shipping One are Delivered Duty Unpaid (DDU). This means any customs duty owed must be paid by the recipient.
When the package arrives, customs will contact the recipient for payment if there is any duty owed and this will need to be paid before the parcel is released. Packages will be held by customs until payments are made and returned or destroyed if payments aren’t received.
When you book with Shipping One you must provide a working local contact number that the recipient can be contacted on and a working email address that belongs to them.
Paying customs charges
Customs fees will be taken from the recipient by customs or a customs broker. No cash will be asked for upon delivery. If an issue like this occurs, you should contact us via live chat and we will resolve this with the courier.
Calculating potential customs charges can be complicated, as different rates apply to different items in different countries, so we advise you to work with the recipient and establish the rate of duty before you arrange a courier to collect your parcel. It’s important the recipient is aware they will be responsible for paying any duty owed.
During the booking process, we will ask you the necessary questions to complete your customs declaration. All you need to do is provide the following information:
A description of the goods, The value of them, The nature of them – in other words, whether they’re a gift, personal belongings or something you’ve sold.
The customs documents help customs officers find out what’s inside the package and check if any customs duty and tax applies to your package.
Customs officers will check what you are sending and duty will be applied – even if you mark the shipment as a ‘gift’, it won’t necessarily mean it will avoid customs duty.
Shipping One will provide an easy-to-fill-out form during the booking process that covers all this. All you have to do is print the completed customs documents and securely attach them to the outside of your parcel.
Our terms and conditions state that it is the responsibility of The Customer to submit all papers required for the customs clearance.
Completing your customs declaration
Completing the customs documentation correctly is essential to avoid any delays with customs.
Be accurate and honest when you list the contents of your parcel. List every item individually and avoid writing generic terms like ‘clothing’ ‘personal belongings’ or ‘gifts’.
If you’re sending clothes, for example, be specific – 1 x red t-shirt, 2 x blue jumper, 1 x pair of Nike trainers.
Failing to provide a detailed overview can cause a delay with your parcel, or even a return if customs has reason to believe the information you have given is inaccurate. The same goes for value, customs officers will always check the market value, so be truthful to avoid additional charges.
Additional customs documents
Some countries require the tax ID of the recipient or their passport number. These countries include South Africa, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Argentina
For locations such as India, you may need to complete a ‘Know Your Customer’ form. This will be provided by customs for the recipient to complete. It checks the recipient is who they say they are and helps prevent fraud.
How to attach customs documents
Once you have completed an order, we provide the shipping labels and customs documents ready for you to print out and attach.
- You should attach them to the outside of the box in a clear plastic wallet so the customs officers can check it.
- If you do not have a plastic wallet, put them inside an envelope marked ‘Customs’ and attach to the outside of the box.
TOP TIP – Put an extra copy of the customs invoice and the shipping label inside of the box, this way if for any reason these documents come loose or the box is damaged, the courier has some information to continue processing the parcel.
If on the tracking you see any customs related updates, contact the recipient to ensure they have been contacted by customs and if they haven’t, get in touch with Shipping One and we can contact the courier to resolve this.
Unfortunately, delays can occur in customs and there is sometimes nothing that can be done until they have taken the time to clear the goods for you. Shipping One has no control over this and neither does the sender, so do let the recipient know that delays are possible.
As a courier reseller service, we do not have direct contact with customs, we liaise with the courier you booked through our quote engine to resolve any issues.